September 22, 2021
Why Samsung’s 108 megapixel camera is more than a gimmick

Why Samsung’s 108 megapixel camera is more than a gimmick

It’s true that software program and machine studying are extra vital than {hardware} in terms of delivering one of the best smartphone cameras. However it’s additionally true that {hardware} performs a component, and that over the previous few years Samsung has been unusually conservative with its smartphone digicam know-how. And it’s additionally true that you simply completely couldn’t degree that accusation on the Galaxy S20 Extremely.

We’ll need to spend extra time with the system to see if Samsung’s software program sport has improved. However it’s onerous to think about the corporate making way more effort to fill out the S20 telephones’ spec sheets. The Extremely specifically has crammed two notable firsts (for the US market, a minimum of) into its sizable digicam bump: a “periscope” telephoto lens

That makes the Galaxy S20 Extremely probably the most mainstream cellphone but to undertake the broader international development of high-megapixel sensors, which Chinese language cellphone makers have been throughout for greater than a yr now. Prior to now, this could have been a recipe for catastrophe — jacking up the megapixel depend typically made photographs look worse, not higher, because the smaller pixels resulted in much less light-gathering means. However as cellphone cameras, processors, and software program have developed, it’s gotten tougher to judge sensor know-how with conventional metrics. Whereas a 108-megapixel cellphone digicam would possibly sound ridiculous to many photographers, it makes extra sense whenever you perceive how Samsung is utilizing the know-how.



The Galaxy S20 Extremely isn’t truly the primary 108-megapixel cellphone in the marketplace — that honor falls to Xiaomi’s Mi Be aware 10, which is also called the CC9 Professional in China. The Mi Be aware 10 makes use of a Samsung-designed sensor that’s similar to the half within the Galaxy S20 Extremely, although there are a few variations. Samsung views its sensor enterprise as an vital space of future development and has been pushing numerous high-resolution designs, together with 48-megapixel and 64-megapixel components, since final yr; these newest 108-megapixel sensors are an try to additional differentiate itself from market chief Sony.

The very first thing to grasp about picture sensors is that, all issues being equal, the larger the higher. Cameras want gentle to create photographs, and bodily bigger sensors are capable of seize extra of it. Every sensor, nevertheless, is split into thousands and thousands of pixels that every one collect gentle independently of each other. Which means the upper the decision of a given sensor, the smaller the pixels will probably be, and consequently the decrease the possibility of every one precisely recording shade info. That’s why photographs in low gentle exhibit shade noise, and why that noise tends to be significantly prevalent on small-sensor cameras with excessive megapixel counts.

The Galaxy S20 Extremely is unquestionably a small-sensor digicam with a excessive megapixel depend. However within the context of cellphone cameras, the sensor is definitely fairly large. Samsung is utilizing the identical 0.8-micron pixel dimension from its 48- and 64-megapixel sensors, then linearly growing the bodily floor space to reach at 108. The result’s a 1/1.3-inch sensor, which is greater than the one in Nokia’s iconic Lumia 1020 (although nonetheless a bit smaller than the one in its 808 PureView predecessor). Given the f/1.8 aperture, these 108-megapixel telephones ought to have extra pure light-gathering functionality than principally something in the marketplace.

That doesn’t imply noise isn’t a priority, and 0.8 microns continues to be fairly small for a person pixel. For comparability, the iPhone 11 has 1.4-micron pixels, although its 12-megapixel sensor is far smaller at 1/2.55 inches and clearly lots decrease in decision. To keep away from noise, higher-resolution cellphone sensors mix knowledge from neighboring pixels into one, decreasing the decision of the ensuing picture however theoretically growing picture high quality. In conditions with vibrant gentle, in the meantime, you may have the choice to shoot at full decision for higher element.

Right here’s a photograph I took with the Xiaomi Mi Be aware 10 this afternoon, for instance. (Sure, you may flip off the obnoxious watermark, however I left it on for straightforward reference.)



And right here’s the way it seems when totally cropped in, alongside a comparability to the class-leading iPhone 11.

As you may see, you get a transparent enchancment intimately with the 108-megapixel picture. That’s a particular mode you need to swap to on the Mi Be aware 10, although — the default setting combines 4 pixels into one and seems 27-megapixel photographs. Right here’s an instance of that:

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